The pandemic-time exodus from city to suburb was the topic of a thousand news articles last year that pondered the future of urban centers. New data show that there really was sustained motion beneath the hype, at least regarding the exodus to Long Island.
The U.S. Postal Service received nearly 50,000 change-of-address requests from New York City addresses to either Nassau or Suffolk counties from March — when New York’s first confirmed COVID-19 case arrived — through the end of 2020.
That includes more than 31,000 requests for a permanent change, and more than 17,500 for a temporary one, according to county-level data obtained by The Point through a Freedom of Information Act records request.
It’s a big shift from previous years. Compared to the average number of requests for those same months from 2017 to 2019, as far back as records are retained, 2020 saw much more restlessness from NYC to Long Island. There were about 1.3 times as many permanent and 5.7 times as many temporary requests in Nassau. In Suffolk, home to the wealthy second-home communities of the North and South forks, the numbers jumped up even more: 2 times the average number of permanent change-of-address requests, and a whopping 12.6 times as many temporary ones.
Most months in 2020, Manhattanites were the most likely to shift to LI addresses, with the exception of big numbers of Queens residents making permanent change requests to Nassau. Manhattan still came in second in that category, though; Queens has more residents in general, which boosts its numbers.
There were also some patterns in when the city crowd made the moves. The month with the highest number of temporary address-change requests to both counties was March, right as the pandemic hit: more than 4,460 made the trek. That generally dwindled as the year progressed, with under 1,000 looking for temporary changes by December.
There was a different pattern for the permanent requests: The highest month in Suffolk was September, with 1,464 requests. The highest in Nassau was August, with 2,262, followed closely by September, with 2,118.
It’s possible that the later permanent numbers indicate New Yorkers reacting to the start of a new school year, or just acting on their observations about new abilities to work from home.
Of course, the USPS requests don’t guarantee you’re leaving your old place behind — you could just want your mail sent elsewhere. But it’s clear that thousands of New Yorkers at least took a good look at Long Island living last year.
It’s less clear whether that will continue, or whether they will return to New York City.
State Assemb. Fred Thiele of Sag Harbor told The Point recently that while the holidays were busy — "like a summer week" between Christmas and New Year’s — there may have been a drop-off afterward as those with other homes in Florida or Aspen head there.
"While it’s still busier than it normally would be without the pandemic, a lot of people have headed for warmer weather the last month or so," said Thiele.
With reporting from Michael Dobie